China enters UN human rights council

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Tuesday, May 9, 2006

The UN General Assembly elected the UN Human Rights council by secret ballot on May 9, 2006. With the participation of 191 member countries and all votes valid, the assembly elected 44 of the 47-strong membership of the new council, practically putting an end to months of thorny debates. Three seats from Eastern Europe will be elected on Wednesday. Sixty-seven states stood for election.

India emerged as the top vote-getter in Tuesday's elections, winning 173 out of 191 votes in a secret ballot to elect the 47-member Council. It was the biggest tally for any country, surpassing Japan (158) and China (146) in Asia.

India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, China, Jordan, Philippines, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka are included in the Asian Group.

Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay were elected for Latin America and the Caribbean Group.

Ghana, Zambia, Senegal, South Africa, Mali, Maurice Islands, Morocco, Gabon, Djibouti, Cameroon, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Algeria comprise the African Group.

The Western European and Other Groups include Germany, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Finland, and Canada.

All groups were completed but that of Eastern Europe, which only selected three of six seats: Russia, Poland, and Czech Republic. Another voting round will be held to elect the remaining three seats

The United States initially opposed this Council and declined to run for a seat citing inadequate correctives. A US State Department spokesperson criticizes the records of new Council members Cuba, China, Russian and Saudi Arabia, hinting that they do not merit being on the Council. US Ambassador John R. Bolton has said the US would work with other member states "to make the council as strong and effective as it can be."

The creation of the Human Rights Council is seen as a key component of overall reform of the United Nations. The new Human Rights Council replaces the 60-year old, largely discredited Human Rights Commission. The Commission was disbanded after a number of countries with dubious human right records manipulated elections to win seats and began to work together as a bloc to defeat resolutions critical against any one of them.

The new Council will be required to conduct a regular review of the human rights record of all countries beginning with those serving on it. The Council will have its first sitting in Geneva on June 19.

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